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(506) 223-1327               Published Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 164         E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Cutting through that jungle of carbon neutrality
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

What does it mean to be carbon negative or carbon positive?  What does it mean to be carbon responsible?  The country aims for carbon neutrality by the year 2021.  Expats living in Costa Rica can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Carbon may also be good business for Costa Rica.  The country’s carbon real estate business is still in its development stages but it's heating up fast.  There are also ways to use the Costa Rican civil code to build carbon responsible communities.

Carbon buzzwords are important in this day and age.  Nature Air, an airline based in Costa Rica, is advertising heavily, stating the company is the world's first and only carbon neutral airline.

Many people confuse the terms carbon negative with carbon positive much as they do with the commonplace expression, a glass half empty or half full.

Burning fossil fuels sends carbon dioxide emissions — referred to as carbon waste — into the atmosphere.  This waste contributes to global warming and leads to human and animal respiratory problems.  Plants, on the other hand, live on carbon dioxide and gobble it up.

Everyone expends carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by breathing in oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.  Breathing is a natural part of life and the biological cycle of nature.   Electricity to heat or cool one’s house, those cars in the garage, the trips one takes, the gadgets, and all the extra stuff making up one’s lifestyle are not part of the natural cycle of life.  All these components generate impact on the planet, referred to as a carbon or environmental footprint.

An average person in Britain is responsible for 10 metric tons of carbon waste per year compared to an American who is responsible for twice that amount or 20 metric tons per year, according to  In comparison, Al Gore, past vice-president of the United States and global warming doomsayer, generates about 20 times the waste of an average American — 40 times that of a Brit. Gore has come under criticism from a number of sources for items like his $30,000 annual utility bill. 

Singer Madonna with 50 times the waste of an average American and 100 times that of a Brit also has been criticized for hypocrisy. The huge amount of her emissions is because of the many performance tours she takes.

Here is what most people do not understand.   Being carbon positive is bad.  This means a person is putting carbon waste into the environment.  Being carbon negative is good.  This means a person is doing more than their share to offset their impact on the environment, offsetting their waste by more than their contribution of waste.   In other words, to leave less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than one puts into it.

For example, a person can become more carbon responsible by putting in alternative sources of energy in ones home like solar, water or wind
cutting through jungle of carbon emissions

generated electrification systems.  Planting trees
and leaving parts of a property forested instead of cutting everything down to subdivide the property into lots to sell to other expats is another way of being carbon wise.

Some development projects in Costa Rica are striving to be carbon negative or at least carbon neutral using carbon sequestration.  Carbon sequestration is where forests are used to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere offsetting carbon waste put into the atmosphere. Reforestation projects are encouraged by the government.

Calculations are complex and sequestration rates vary by tree species and soil conditions among other factors, but a good guesstimate is a hectare of land, 2.471 acres, can sequester between 5 to 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.

An expat living in Costa Rica generating 10 metric tons of carbon waste per year must own two hectares, 4.94 acres, of trees to be carbon neutral and more than two hectares to be carbon negative.

Over the years, the country has received bad marks in many areas of conservation, particularly in deforestation.  Today, they are changing attitudes because there is money in carbon.  One thing for sure, the country’s bean counters are trying to figure out what is better to fill up its coffers — like the China Taiwan scenario.

Expats should get on the carbon bandwagon, too, because it is good for the planet and understanding the dynamics is good for business and real estate values. But they must also be alert to carbon credit scams that have generated a lot of publicity elsewhere.

A readable summary of carbon emissions and global warming is HERE!

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 164

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It's Mother's Day again,
but only for this year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is yet another holiday in Costa Rica. It is the Monday on which Mother's Day is celebrated, giving the nation a three-day weekend.

Despite threatened storms, a number of Central Valley residents went to vacation spots and are expected to return tonight clogging highways.

This is the last three-day weekend for Mother's Day because lawmakers are poised to annul a law that moved the holiday from the traditional Aug. 15.

Costa Ricans just did not accept the change in the traditional date and honor their mothers on the traditional day anyway.

Shootout by motorcyclists
leaves one dead, one hurt

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gunmen intercepted and shot two men on a motorcycle in Zapote late Sunday morning. One of the victims died. The gunmen, too, were on a motorcycle and appear to have rammed the vehicle of the victims during the shooting.

Dead is a 25-year-old man with the last names of Baez Alvarez. His companion, identified by the last names of Martínez Morales suffered multiple bullet wounds.

The shootout happened on the Circumvalacion, the four-lane highway that runs south of San José centro. Some shots may have been returned by the men who were victims. There were conflicting reports.

Motorcycles are frequently used in contract killings, but this is the first time in memory that the victims, too, were on a motorcycle.

Another Shooting Saturday took the life of a traffic policeman. However, the shooting appeared to stem from a personal grudge and did not appear related to the man''s work as a policeman. The man who shot him killed himself a few minutes later.

The shooting took place in Barranca, Puntarenas.  Dead is Alexander Murillo Vega, the traffic policeman who was on a parked motorcycle at the time. The other dead man was identified as Carvajal Acosta, although confirmation awaits the result of an autopsy.

Bank acount is set up here
to accept aid for quake victims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Embassy of Perú in Costa Rica has set up a bank account for donations to victims of the Wednesday earthquake in that country. The quake caused many deaths, injuries and property damage, the embassy statement noted. Other stories are HERE!

It said it was setting up an account at the request of those who had called wanting to make donations.

The account is at Scotiabank and the number is 10301613, the embassy said.

Boost promised for tourism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials, including President Óscar Arias Sánchez, say they will try to boost tourism in the northern zone. The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has signed an agreement with the cantons of Guatuso, Los Chiles, Upala y Boca Arenal. Toward that end, officials said they would fix some 70 kms (43 miles) of road in the area, and inaugurated a 5.8 kms (3.5 miles) stretch of asphalt between Los Chiles and the community of Tablillas.

Technical school for Pozos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa has approved the transfer of land from the Municipalidad de Santa Ana to the proposed  Colegio Técnico Profesional de Santa Ana. The location is in Pozos.

High school youngsters will be able to select specialized training in technical fields when the school is in operation.

Our reader's opinion
He anticipates leaving
now more than arrival

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Some observations from a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, but one whose salidas are increasingly more anticipated than his llegadas:

1.  About the TLC.  Typically, when one country wants to punish another, it imposes an embargo to restrict trade and commerce.  I am amazed at how many Ticos want to punish their own country.

 2.  Probably I shouldn't be surprised.  Anyone who has ever crossed the border at Peñas Blancas or Paso Canoas has already experienced this same attitude from some of the government's most annoying functionaries.

 3.  Personally, I hope the TLC is voted down.  It is very difficult to do any kind of business in this country where cheating, fraud, lying, and theft are so endemic.

4.  In fact I can almost envision a future in which half the population is employed in security while the other half seems involved in some kind of crime.  Or, in the case of the police, involved in both.

5.  Incidentally, about the sex trade:  Has anyone ever  surveyed the men and women involved to find out what their introductions to intercourse were?  I am amazed at the amount of sexual abuse of children that exists, not by tourists, but by uncles, fathers, and neighbors.  Sometimes I wonder if there is even one family that has been spared.

Jose Arnstein
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 164

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Costa Rica manages to dodge punch of another hurricane
By the A.M. Costa Rica
and wire service reports

The country seems to have dodged another bullet launched by Mother Nature.

Hurricane Dean, a tropical storm that grew to a major category 4 hurricane over the weekend, was expected to do damage to Costa Rica. The national emergency commission issued alerts Friday covering all provinces.

But by early Monday the hurricane continues on a track a few degrees north of due west with winds ravaging Jamaica's southern coast with winds blowing at more than 230 kph (143 mph) and torrential rains of up to 50 centimeters (nearly 20 inches).

The hurricane is expected to make landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula of México Tuesday, and that government has issued alerts.

Costa Rica never experiences a direct hit by hurricanes, but the rains that come from Caribbean storms can be deadly and cause major damage.

This weekend the biggest effect was high water in Limón that inundated some streets in the city Sunday. There was some flooding on the Pacific coast, too.

Rain in the province was negligible Sunday, but San José received 25.2 millimeters, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Wednesday night residents on Costa Rica's Pacific coast braced for a tsunami that never came. The cause of that was the earthquake that evening in Perú.
The weather institute said that the indirect influence of Hurricane Dean will continue to have an effect today bringing rains in the afternoon on the Pacific coast and the Central Valley. The northern zone and all of Limón province will experience isolated showers.

Cuba's government also issued a storm watch for communities on its southern coast. Dean is the first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, which forecasters expect to be more active than normal and produce at least seven hurricanes.

Saturday Hurricane Dean passed south of the island of Hispaniola, where Haiti and the Dominican Republic suffered minor damage from heavy rains and wind. Dominican officials reported the death of one person who was swept out to sea by a powerful wave. An elderly man drowned in storm waters in Saint Lucia, and two other people died on the island of Dominica in recent days.

Weather forecasters say they expect the storm to continue moving west, and hit the Cayman Islands early today and reach Mexico's Yucatan peninsula by early Tuesday.

The governor of the southern U.S. state of Louisiana, on the Gulf of Mexico, has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm. Louisiana is home to New Orleans, which suffered devastating floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Officials with the U.S. space agency, NASA, said they are shortening the mission of the shuttle Endeavour by one day, because of concerns that the storm could affect conditions at Mission Control in Houston.

NASA now says the Endeavour is due to land Tuesday.

For our birthday an essay on that little birthday song
¡Cumpleaños Feliz!

Happy Birthday!
Since A.M. Costa Rica is celebrating an important anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about the birthday song. In Costa Rica, as in the U.S., we sing the same melody but, of course, the words are in Spanish:
Cumpleaños Feliz
Te deseamos a ti
Cumpleaños A.M. Costa Rica
Cumpleaños Feliz
Que los cumplas feliz
Que los cumplas feliz
Que los cumplas con muchos éxitos
Que los Cumplas feliz

Happy Birthday
We wish to you
Happy Birthday A.M. Costa Rica
Happy Birthday to you
May the years be fulfilled
May the years be fulfilled
May the years be fulfilled with many successes
May the years be fulfilled
The story goes that this little ditty was actually born in 1893. The music was written by Mildred J. Hill, a kindergarten teacher, and her sister, Patty Hill, also a teacher, wrote the English words.
But what many people do not know is that this little tune originally was designed to serve a very different purpose. In the beginning the song was intended to welcome the students to school. So rather than saying “Happy birthday to you,” the words began “Good morning to you,” which in Spanish of course would be <Buenos dias a ti>.
At some point along the way the melody got altered

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

slightly to accommodate the new birthday words, however no one knows for sure exactly when this happened. But the first published edition of “Happy Birthday to You” appeared in an elementary-school songbook in 1924.

In Spain the song is <Feliz, Feliz en tu dia> “Happy, Happy on your day,” and it has many interpretations.
In México the song is <Las Mañanitas>, which is usually accompanied by a mariachi band.
In Norway they sing <Hurrah for deg>, “Hurray for you!” or ¡Hurra por ti!  in Spanish. In Norway parts of the song are traditionally acted out by guests at the birthday party. It will be interesting to know if the folks that work at A.M. Costa Rica did anything like that at their celebration Friday. Who knows, maybe with enough guáro…
In Venezuela the traditional song is called <Ay, que noche tan preciosa>, “Oh, What a Beautiful Night.” It is very unique, and full of wonderful sentiment.
But, whatever version we may choose it still comes out ¡Viva A.M. Costa Rica! ¡Felicidades! Y muchos años exitosos más.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 20, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 164

Tsunami warning system in much better shape than in 2004
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Peru is two continents and an ocean away from the Indian Ocean, but the speed and accuracy with which a massive earthquake near Lima recently was measured is a direct result of the global response to the 9.1-magnitude temblor and tsunami that struck South and Southeastern Asia Dec. 26, 2004.

The deadliest disaster in modern history caused the loss of nearly 230,000 people. At the time, the United States and Japan were the only nations whose shores were protected by tsunami early warning systems, and people around the world looked to experts in those countries for help.

Today, in an effort coordinated by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, a global tsunami warning and mitigation system slowly is taking shape in the world's oceans and along its coastlines.

From 100 to 200 kms (62 to 124 miles) off the Peruvian coast, tectonic plates that cover the planet are active. There, the Nazca Plate grinds under and pushes up the South American Plate, releasing energy that sometimes becomes an earthquake.

In the early evening Wednesday, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake occurred near the coast of central Peru, about 145 kms (90 miles) southeast of Lima, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake killed more than 500 people, injuring 1,600 and left tens of thousands homeless.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued and later cancelled a tsunami warning and watch for the Pacific coast of South and Central America, which experienced small tsunami waves less than a meter high. Thousands of Costa Ricans on the Pacific coasts took the warning seriously and began evacuations before the alert was cancelled.

Among the seismic stations that helped pinpoint and characterize the major earthquake were five new stations that the U.S. Geological Survey has installed in the Caribbean over the past two years. The agency plans to install four more seismic stations there by the end of 2007.

"These newer instruments are making available the kind of data that makes a difference when trying to estimate the kind of earthquake and the magnitude," seismologist Walter Mooney, lead coordinator for the survey's Indian Ocean tsunami warning system program.

"The correct magnitude probably came significantly faster and more accurately than it would have in 2004," he added.

Another difference since 2004 is the expanded use of deep ocean assessment and reporting of tsunamibuoys, designed by the U.S. Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash., to detect tsunamis as they move across the ocean.

The Peruvian tsunami was detected by a Chilean-owned
buoy for tsunami
This is a buoy of the armed forces in Chile. It is of the type that first detected the tsunami last week.

buoy that sent tsunami data to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center within one hour of tsunami generation. The data were used to provide experimental tsunami forecasts within two hours of tsunami generation.

The buoy data and forecast were instrumental in the quick cancellation of the warning, said Eddie Bernard, director of the Seattle center. This is the big difference from 2004 to now, he added.

In Paris in 2005, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, already responsible with helping U.N. member states on the Indian Ocean rim establish a tsunami warning system, created a framework for developing regional early warning systems in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

Along with the Pacific Tsunami Warning System that the commission established in 1965, these regional systems would conform to the same standards, ultimately to share data and form a global system for monitoring and detecting a range of natural and other hazards, including tsunamis.

With funding approved by Congress in 2005, the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency are lending expertise and technology to these efforts.

Troops sent in to ensure safety in hard-hit section of Peru
 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peru's government has deployed 1,000 more troops to help distribute aid and ensure calm in areas hit by an earthquake that killed at least 500 people. Damage from the quake continues to hamper relief efforts across central Peru.

Military officials ordered more troops into affected towns amid reports that shipments of relief supplies had been looted and that tensions were rising among displaced survivors. Residents and officials say relief aid has been slow to arrive in some areas, because of damage to roads and other infrastructure by the 8.0 magnitude quake that struck central Peru Wednesday.

Several international aid groups have sent teams to assist in relief efforts. The Peru country director for CARE International, Milo Stanojevich, says his teams are focussing their efforts on the provinces of Ica and Huancavelica, where government supplies have been slow to arrive.
"There is an airlift, a military airport in Pisco, so most of the government aid has been going there. So we figured our best role is to work in communities that are more out of the way and where aid is not reaching," said Stanojevich.

Stanojevich says his teams are working to provide water, blankets and flashlights to survivors, as well as tents for some of the 30,000 families left homeless in the quake.
He adds that tension has been rising in recent days because of concern over looting and possible violence, partly caused by reports that 600 prisoners had escaped after the quake destroyed a prison near the town of Chincha.

"Word is that the prisoners are looting. But I think it is a combination of things. People who are getting desperate for supplies, and other people are taking advantage of the situation," added Stanojevich.

The U.S. government has released $150,000 in emergency aid to Peru, and is providing two medical teams.

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